Deciding to end your marriage is one of the most difficult and emotional decisions you will ever make, particularly if you have children. Divorce involves financial matters that must be resolved and legal issues that must be addressed before the process is concluded. A family law attorney at Law Offices of Dwight W. Clark, L.L.C. in Columbia, MD, can help you to understand the issues involved in divorce and how to proceed for the best result.
Grounds for divorce
Traditionally, someone seeking a divorce had to make an allegation of fault. Today, the majority of states allow at least one form of no-fault divorce that does not require proof of misconduct or misdeeds on the part of one or both spouses. If no-fault divorce is available one spouse may obtain a divorce even if the other does not consent.
Some states do still require a legal reason before a divorce will be granted. These are called “fault-based divorces.” Those states requiring a showing of fault have statutes that specifically outline the different types of conduct that must be shown before a divorce can be granted. Some of the more common types of fault that may be grounds for divorce are: adultery, mental illness, being convicted of a felony, abandonment, alcohol/drug abuse, cruelty, impotency, passing a sexually transmitted disease to your partner, and bigamy. Some states have both fault-based and no-fault divorces available. Even if fault is not required to obtain a divorce, it may play a role in determining whether an award of spousal support is appropriate.
Alimony, spousal support and maintenance
Alimony, also known as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance,” is financial support paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce. Because each state determines alimony differently, it is important to consult with an attorney in your state to determine what factors the court considers when deciding if alimony will be awarded, to whom it will be paid, and how much the payments will be.
There are three main types of alimony: permanent alimony, reimbursement alimony and rehabilitative alimony. Permanent alimony is basically an allowance for support and maintenance of a former spouse. It is designed to be used for necessities like food, clothing and housing for the spouse him or herself, independent of child support. When one party requests permanent alimony, he or she must establish a need for long-term support, and also that the other party has the ability to meet this need. Permanent alimony awards are not nearly as common today as they were just one generation ago, but they are still appropriate in many cases. Sometimes even “permanent” awards end when the paying spouse retires, so consulting a family law attorney prior to seeking support is recommended.
Reimbursement and rehabilitative alimony are each paid for a shorter period and usually provide less than the standard of living during the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide the means necessary to enable one spouse to refresh or enhance job skills in order to become self-supporting. The goal is to provide financially while schooling or training occurs to increase the receiving spouse’s relative earning capacity.
The factors the courts consider when determining if an alimony award is warranted vary from state to state, but commonly include: the length of the marriage, fault of either party in bringing about the end of the marriage, and each party’s financial condition, age, health, education, earning capacity and employment opportunities, as well as any sacrifices that one party made for the benefit of the other. Of all the issues that arise during divorce, alimony and property division are often the most contentious.
Division of property
Property division is a necessary yet often difficult part of any divorce proceeding. Each state has adopted one of two basic systems for distributing property: equitable distribution (sometimes called a “separate property system” or “common law system”) or community property. Regardless of the system used, each state has its own rules for dividing marital property. States differ as to how marital or non-marital, community, or separate property is defined. States also use different rules to decide how the property should be distributed. This is a complicated area of family law, and the advice and assistance of a family law attorney who is familiar with the property division rules of your particular state can be invaluable.
Contact a family law attorney today
Once you have decided to end your marriage, it is in your interest to approach the divorce process from a rational, business-like perspective. This can be extraordinarily difficult given the emotional issues with which you must also cope. Working with a lawyer at Law Offices of Dwight W. Clark, L.L.C. in Columbia, MD, who is experienced in family law can help you to get through the process with less stress.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.